Which tech companies will be making waves in 2021?
It's no secret the South West is totally killing it when it comes to expanding our tech sector. Back in November, tech was named Bristol's fastest-growing industry, boasting the most jobs and higher-than-average salaries across the board according to new data by Tech Nation.
The Bristol and Bath region host more than 10,000 technology companies in its globally recognised ecosystem. According to Beauhurst, the 216 high-growth Bristol-based tech companies have raised £804m since 2011, positioning the city as the 6th most active city in the UK by the number of high-growth tech companies.
With that in mind, here at TechSPARK, we wanted to give a shoutout to the tech companies we predict will be making big waves in 2021. There are a few very familiar faces, and others who you may not know as well but who we think will be having a huge impact on our tech sector this year.
Graphcore has created an entirely new processor. Its Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU) technology is designed specifically for AI compute, which optimises and accelerate machine learning applications both in servers and in the cloud. The IPU enables AI researchers to embark on work that was not before possible.
Due to its truly pioneering tech, it's no surprise Graphcore has been wildly successful in raising capital - even pre-development. Graphcore is one of two Bristol-based unicorns, with a current valuation of $2.77 billion, post-money.
Most recently, Graphcore raised $222m in a Series E funding round, bringing the total funds raised by Graphcore to more than $710 million and positioning the company within the real potential to be a global leader in AI.
- Find out more: Graphcore raises $222m in Series E funding round
With Schroders joining existing investors such as Baillie Gifford and Draper Esprit bringing deep experience in disruptive technology and support for scale-up businesses to the table, Graphcore is undoubtedly set to make innovative steps in strengthening its powerhouse status.
Ultraleap is a Bristol-based company that is producing world-leading hand tracking and haptic technology to eradicate the need for touch and replace this with natural interaction. And it doesn't need to be said that tech which enables us to interact without touching has never been more relevant.
2020 had some winners, and Ultraleap was certainly one of them. The pandemic launched recognition for haptics outside of the tech sector's sphere, particularly with its TouchFree application, which enables companies to seamlessly retrofit existing kiosks and touchscreens, moving consumer interactions with public screens into mid-air.
TouchFree can facilitate the safe usage of digital kiosks that are found everywhere from restaurants to hospitals to shopping centres. COVID-19 will have a rippling impact on general attitudes, with Ultraleap's research suggesting that 80% of people now believe that touchscreens are unhygienic.
The software-driven fulfillment provider that helps connect small businesses to e-commerce, Huboo, has been making its mark for quite some time now, but it was noticeably ahead of the curve when coronavirus hit.
Founded in 2017, Huboo uses unique ‘micro hub’ technology to enable online retailers of all sizes – a £27bn market – to access a complete end-to-end fulfillment operation within minutes.
Huboo also implemented a unique 'micro-hub' physical structure pre-pandemic which proved to be extremely efficient when social distancing became fundamental. The benefits of this have been boundless. With a surge of demand and investment, Hubbo has raised just short of £20m in 2020, enabling them to double its warehouse space in Bristol and created over 100 new job roles!
We expect this growth to continue as Huboo focuses on major UK and European expansion.
Rovco is a leading provider of ROV and hydrographic services combining industry-leading expertise with innovative, cutting edge technology. It provides underwater surveying and inspection services for a range of industries such as oil & gas, scientific research, and renewables.
The team has been growing phenomenally in 2020 and has certainly been recognised for it. Altogether, Rovco received 9 industry and tech awards last year, including The SPARKies 2020 'Totally Killing It' award!
- Find out more: Rovco takes home 9 Industry and Tech Awards in 2020
In addition, they won over £15m in contracts and raised £6.9m of investment to support continual growth in 2021. With their support of green energy, and utilisation of pioneering real-time artificial intelligence, robotics, and 3D vision systems, Rovco is set for more success in 2021.
Whilst Condense Reality is still early stage, there is a lot of indication they will be doing big things in 2021. The virtual reality startup has developed a system for streaming hologram-style 3D “volumetric video” of live events alongside a normal television broadcast, with the potential to bring entertainment and sport to life on the tabletop to complement the on-screen action.
Firstly, Condense Reality was selected to be apart of a consortium, that includes the University of Bristol and BT, which was given £1.5m from the government, through 5G Create, to revolutionise the way we consume live entertainment and sports.
Then they went on to raise £800k seed round, including £220,000 from SFC Capital, the most active seed-stage investor in the UK. The investment will see Condense Reality increase its R&D capabilities and commercialise its technology over the next 12 months, meaning 2021 will be filled with opportunities for the startup.
Fintech continued to demonstrate real innovation in 2020, and Moneyub was amongst the Bristol-based companies that made an impact by building on Open Finance.
Moneyhub is an award-winning Open Finance data, intelligence, and payment API provider that brings Open Banking to businesses within and outside of financial services. 2020 was a year of collaborating and growth for the business as they nearly doubled their workforce and embarked on projects with the likes of Open Banking Excellence (OBE) and Streeva.
- Find out more: Open Banking Excellence, Moneyhub and Streeva launch QR code-based open banking payments with automated Gift Aid
As anxiety levels reached new highs last year, the appetite for Open Finance solutions to help clients improve their financial wellness while reducing money worries has grown.
Moneyhub finished 2020 on a high as they secured £5.6m equity fundraising at the end of December - we can't wait to what they have lined up for this year!
Candide takes gardening and optimises its practices through tech. Back in 2019, it launched its augmented reality plant identification and tagging tool that enables gardeners, houseplant parents, and novices alike to identify plants and offer care advice via a handy app.
- Find out more:
Top gardening innovator Candide launches new AR labelling appWith the pandemic resulting in all of us spending more time in our gardens and homes, the plant market is booming with no signs of slowing down. But as well as sharing useful information about caring for your garden, a real selling point for Candide's impact in 2021 is its contribution towards eradicating plastic.
Having a personal catalogue for all your shrubs, homegrown vegetables, flowers, and evergreens means gardeners and allotment owners can wave goodbye to plastic labels.
The company has now grown to 50 people, with plans to continue expansion in 2021.
5G has been in the works for a while, but we can see 2021 being the year where it really takes off, and Blu Wireless is set to be at the heart of this. The Bristol-based company is disrupting the market with its ultra-fast and seamless 5G mmWave solutions.
Having secured £35m of equity funding since inception and being part of the winning bid for the new Liverpool 5G Create project from the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS), 2021 is looking busy already for Blu Wireless.
The 18-month 5G Create programme will see Blu Wireless match-fund and play a significant role in delivering a robust, independent 5G network to help the vital NHS and Social Care services further develop in a post-Covid world.
Immersive Labs provides online training services for businesses, focusing on gamification to teach cybersecurity. Its ambition is to empower human capability in tackling cybersecurity threats, which their research reveals is currently below par. A recent report found that nearly 40% of respondents were not confident that their teams would be able to handle a data breach if one happened that week - Immersive is on a mission to change this.
- Find out more:
Immersive Labs and Osterman Research releases Cyber Crisis ReportWith the expansion into the United States on the cards, Immersive Labs is set to make a big mark on cybersecurity in 2021.
Ntegra is a Swindon based technology practice, accelerating digital change for their enterprise clients through application development, flexible programme resourcing and emerging technology curation services.
They create custom digital products that help organization’s work more effectively; curate and validate emerging technologies to deliver new returns and provide tried and tested personnel to digital programmes ensuring they reach their target outcomes. Ntegra has a refreshing approach in the industry matching the Big Four in ability but behaving like an agency.
The company has already had a stellar start to 2021 as Judith Halkerston, an advisor to Ntgera, has been recognised in the new years honours list with an OBE for her services to the UK Digital Economy.
Their partnership with Xavor Corporation has enabled global expansion as well as the chance to combine forces of Xavor’s industry-leading IT services with Ntegra’s world-class strategy-led technology consultancy, making way for further growth in 2021.
Thanks for taking the time to check out our predictions for ones to watch in 2021! To find out more about any of these businesses, make sure to have a look at our Companies Page where you'll find a collection of job vacancies, upcoming events, and news articles.